A close friend who represents the Hasbara movement in the US was telling me that last night he went to a speaker event with one of the leaders of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, & Sanctions) movement. When he identified himself and asked a question about the speaker’s proposed one-state solution during Q&A, the man attacked him as an “occupier” and refused to even answer the question. Another woman, whose grandmother was from Jaffa, angrily called him a “killer.”
Coming from a personal place of being incredibly uncomfortable with the role this friend played in the occupation of Hebron (and possibly even being guilty, myself, of referring to him as a killer during a particularly heated argument… I can’t quite remember, now), I now feel for him—as a human, and also as a representative of the larger sector of “moderate” or reasonable people caught in this conflict. Not a radical anti-imperialist purist requiring full rejection of and withdrawal from any occupation-related activities and circles, but also not an apologist in any way—and certainly not a killer. Anything but that. His hands are full of calluses from holding a gun, and his head full of confusion like anyone else wrapped up in the mess, but his heart holds nothing but love and kindness.
We have to stop dehumanizing one another in the attempts to solve this conflict in the most “right” or “just” way. Though a person may not have chosen (or had the opportunity to choose) to remove him or herself in as complete a way from the circle of violence, he is equally as harmed by accusatory words and angry insults. Sure, being called a “killer” is nothing in comparison to being robbed of home, possessions, and dignity. But it is nonetheless an unacceptable way to treat another human being, who is open to a path to reconciliation and justice, so long as he can be treated with respect along the way.
We (those who care) must begin to see one another as partners, no matter our political views—so long as they’re still malleable and not hardened by the insidious power of dogma. In the end, this conflict comes down to human relationships, much more than land. So we must treat those relationships as sacred: and refrain, hard as it may be, from spewing our anger on those representing the privilege of the oppressor, offering them instead a hand toward peace and a role in the fight for justice.
Israel-Palestine: this is the year for compromise. If not now, when?